You're Invited! RSVP (part 1)
By Harold Markham
On February 23, 1791, after a week of illness, John Wesley, 88, left to preach from Isaiah 55:6 in a village 20 miles from London. It was to be his last journey and his last sermon.What was the message that consumed preachers like Wesley? It was the same message that that consumed Isaiah; Trust God!
You may think that this life is full of obstacles that the Bible characters never faced; that an imperative like “Trust God” is too simplistic. After all we are in a modern society, have technology, hospitals and TV. We have complex problems like divorce, unemployment, drugs, crime, and war. Can we really in simplicity trust God in a day like ours? The answer of course is yes. We can-- we must trust God. The core issues haven’t changed much at all since the pen of the prophet. When stripped away from the style of the age the underlying problems that have been with us since Eden exist. Addictions, divorce, crimes, wars—evil flows from our wicked heart. Just how can one deal with this source of evil? Luther phrased it this way: “Will we in our own strength confide?” Will we look to ourselves, our plans, our resources? Will we practice the religion of human achievement—look to ourselves, our counsel for solutions and salvation; or will we rest in the divine accomplishment? For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” Romans 10:11
During the time of Isaiah, Assyria was growing in power under Tiglath-Pileser, who turned toward the west after his conquests to the east, plucking up many of the smaller nations along the Mediterranean including the Northern Kingdom of Israel. What can we do to avert the wrath of Tiglath-Pileser? What can we do to stand against foes like Sennacherib? The only hope, the only help—even in the midst of trouble and trial is to trust God. This is the message of Isaiah. A quick and simple overview of the book sees the first 39 chapters declaring God’s judgment against a forgetful, wicked nation of chosen people. Sprinkled in these sections are pleas to look to God and trust Him—regardless of the external situation. Beginning around chapter 40, Isaiah promises hope—even in the midst of crisis. In our text chapter 55 God once again invites people to look to Him to have their real needs met.
God graciously invites you to trust Him.
Isaiah 55 invites us to manifest faith (trust God) in several aspects of God’s work.
I. We are invited to trust God’s plan. vv. 1-5
This great passage opens with the word “ho”. The NEB translates this as “Hey” because its summons attention. Pay attention! There is urgency expressed here. It is a RSVP invitation to trust God. Interesting enough this word has been used thus far in Isaiah to convey God’s judgment (translated Woe 20 times in Isaiah). To refuse this invitation is judgment. Why? Because we have needs that only God can meet.
Notice the offer here.
“Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance.” Isaiah 55:1-2
Come, buy, and eat- all without silver!
My kids like to imagine things like: going to Wal-mart and the store giving away their toys for free! They know it’s not going to happen, but imagine that they go into the store one day and they go to buy something without money. What would the cashier do? What if however I owned Wal-mart? Would my kids get free stuff? Free to them, purchased by me.
Such is the provision we have in this invitation. God, Himself is covering the cost of this event. He offers it to all who will come at no cost to them. Pay attention! Come, buy, eat, free to you.
Interestingly enough the concept of being hungry and thirsty seems to be a clear metaphor in the culture for the condition of a man’s inner being. Some (Herrick) would even argue that human thirst could be linked to idol worship cf. Is 21:14, 29:8, 32:6 and Deut. 29:18. This concept certainly fits with what Elijah sees God do in the shutting up of the heavens. In any event man needs water and our souls need a relationship God.
Consider the following verses:
Psalm 143:6: “I stretch out my hands to Thee; My soul longs for Thee, as a parched land.”
Psalm 42:1 “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for Thee, O God.”
Psalm 63:1 “A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, Thou art my God; I shall seek Thee earnestly; My soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
Imagine a man lost in the desert. This man is parched, dying of thirst. He hasn’t had a drop of liquid for 3 days. He crawls up over the top of a sand dune and there is a man holding out to him an ice cold glass of water. I mean the ice cubes are rattling on the side of the glass, the condensation is dripping from the refreshing liquid and the man says, “No thanks, I’d rather have a coke, I’ll just wait until I find some.”
Spiritually we are all men in the desert. Our Lord invites us to take of the salvation He provides. If we do He promises water not just water and bread, but the wine of blessing and milk for growth (Herrick).
“But I have no doubt that under these words, “waters, milk, wine, bread,” Isaiah includes all that is necessary for spiritual life; for the metaphors are borrowed from those kinds of food which are in daily use amongst us.”
Folks we must not pass by the goodness of God’s invitation looking for something that suits us better. Specifically in the area of salvation only God can give us what we need. A spouse, a job, a church- though important, cannot deliver what God does. Solomon who tried to fill his life with things other than God tells us that it was all vanity. Take God at His word. Accept His invitation. Let Him give you what your inner man needs.
Look again at verse 2
“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance.
Only God is the source of this abundant satisfaction.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. John 6:35. Of course Christ was not speaking about conventional food anymore than Isaiah was. He is speaking of a relationship with God, through Himself. Listen to these New Testament mirrors…
“If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” John 7:37
“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:38
“…but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:14
Are you hungering and thirsting after God today?
In Matthew 5:6 Jesus makes a promise: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
One of the reasons why we can trust in God’s invitation is…
A. Because He has made promises. v. 3
This invitation is not based upon a glib hope or blind faith. There is no question about the promised outcome of trusting God. Let me explain…
Last week some men from our church helped us move a piano. These young men were hoping that I’d feed them supper afterwards—even though I had made no such promise. It was really presumptuous for them to expect me to feed them (yes we fed them). I had made no such promise. I did promise to give one a ride, however. Were they wrong to expect me to keep my word—to give them a ride? They had every right to expect a ride. I made a promise.
God assures us with promises that will not fail. He promises that there will be results of trusting in this invitation. If we incline our ears and listen (v.3) we are promised life. When we come and listen our souls find the living water, the bread of life, the sincere milk of the Word. And we eat of the best things (cf. 1:18-19; 55:2). The text also says that we will share in the promises He has made to others-- specifically David.
I have 6 children. Sometime one of my children will invite a guest over to our home. At times the visit has been spontaneous. One time I had planned to take the children out for a special ice cream treat. I had planned this event especially for my children, but the guest also was granted the promised blessing as well. They partook of the frozen richness and shared in the blessing bestowed on my children. When we respond to this kind invitation of God we share in the blessings associated with the David Covenant. Notice that these promises are called the sure mercies or faithfulloving kindnesses (the Hebrew word is plural).A complete sermon could be delivered just on this Hebrew word alone, but suffice it to say this is a compassionate, kind, loving bestowal (favor) of God towards David. It is more than grace because it is lack of consequential punishment and a tender bestowal of favor. It is a sure mercy, a faithful mercy, a done deal type of mercy. Here it is extended not just to David, not just the “crown” (or title), or even the nation only (as most commentators suggest) but to all who will respond to the invitation. Let’s see if we can understand this blessing a bit.
What promises did God make to David? Psalm 89:1-4 tells us exactly what this sure mercies/loving-kindnesses towards David were:
“ I will sing of the lovingkindness of the Lord forever; To all generations I will make known Thy faithfulness with my mouth. For I have said, “Lovingkindness will be built up forever; In the heavens Thou wilt establish Thy faithfulness.” “I have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant, I will establish your seed forever, And build up your throne to all generations.”
“The Davidic Covenant promised David that his seed would be ruler over Israel in an everlasting kingdom (2 Sam. 7:8,16; Ps. 89:27–29). Paul connected the resurrection of Christ with this promise (Acts 13:34), since it was an essential event in fulfilling this promise. If He had not fully satisfied God by His atoning death, He would not have risen; if He had not risen from the dead, He could not eventually sit on David’s earthly throne. But He did rise and will fulfill the kingly role (v. 4). Cf. Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:23,24; 37:24,25”
That was great news for David! But now it is also a promise to those who respond. There will be an eternal King. A descendant of David will govern the entire world. Isaiah will present Him as the Servant-Messiah as the next chapters unfold. He will not be sovereign over Israel only, but over all. Those who know Him will be blessed indeed. God has made promises. We can “bank” on them. We should also trust this invitation…
B. Because He has made provision. vv. 4-5
Let’s go back to the ice cream that I had promised my children. Let’s assume I have the kids and the company loaded up in the van and off we go to get an ice cream—just as I promised. Lo and behold when we disembark from the van I discover that I left my wallet at home. I was kind, I was good, I was trying, but I was impotent to fulfill my word. I did not have the financial power available to bestow the treat on those whom I had promised. How do we know God can afford to offer us such blessings as water, wine, milk, food and a Davidic Messiah?
Let’s go back to the ice cream again. The next time I go to take the kids out what will they say? “Dad, don’t forget your wallet.” At which time I will pull my wallet from my pocket and show the kids that this time I really am going to fulfill my word.
The wonderful thing is that God never fails to keep His Word, and yet He proves His ability to do as promised.
How will we know? We will see the wallet in His hand by the witness He has established and the drawing of the nations.
David was a witness of God’s power. “Thou hast delivered me from the contentions of the people; Thou hast placed me as head of the nations; A people whom I have not known serve me.” Psalm 18:43. One commentator (Leupold) suggests that God started something special in Israel under David. It was proof that God was keeping His promise. He had the power—the money in the wallet. Ultimately I believe that this section will find its perfect fulfillment under the Messiah’s rule (Motyer, Orelli, Gil). God has given ample proof of His power! David is only a witness to a covenant ratified in Messiah (Calvin).
You may say God has not given us proof of His saving power? Yet Paul points to the resurrection as the ultimate proof of His power—specifically related to His ability to keep this covenant (“And as for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no more to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’” Acts 13:34)!
Why don’t we trust God with our lives? Why do we seek relationships that will leave us empty? Why do we invest years into occupations that steal us away from that which we really need? Why do we esteem the temporal mammon more worthy than God? What is it today that you need to swap for the living water and bread of life?